Friday, March 11, 2016

How I think, re:being better in outside but having the problem of cold winters

My interlocutor brought up the problem, and it really is one.  If you're not fully functional without spending time outside in the sun and, possibly, with the nature, then times when its could, or just dreary and raining and whatnot so event though the sun filtered by clouds might be enough, there's a significant effort investment in getting outside, are a problem.  Because the general result is that you aren't fully functional.

Interloutor talked about the possibility of moving somewhere where going outside was a less involved process for more of the year.  That is a rational response.  It is not, however, a me response.

No, this is where my mind went:

Build a greenhouse, a big greenhouse, underground.  The only part that is at ground level is the glass(?)* roof that the sun comes through.

While there are obvious things to put in from  a productive standpoint (grow flowers in the winter, have tomatoes on hand at all times of year) the point is to have nature to be available to you.  So there will be grass and trees and bushes and such.

Whether glass or plastic the roof will be double paned.  Ideally as much air as possible would be sucked out of the space between the panes because while air is actually a decent insulator vacuum is better.

Part of the draw of being underground is that the earth itself serves as the insulation on all sides except the roof that the light comes through, but there is a downside.

You can't have massive south facing windows if the south face is dirt and/or rock.

A possible solution to this would be a giant above ground mirror (are there full spectrum mirrors? there should be) or a giant array of smaller ones, that reflected the low sunlight (which would mostly go over the greenhouse) into the greenhouse.

Regardless, there would likely need to be artificial lighting because come winter there's just not as much light and there's a need to compensate for that.

And that's where my mind goes.  "Move to a place with a climate more in tune with your psychological needs?  Surely you jest. Build a massive underground complex that brings that climate to you here."

Actually building a massive underground complex is something that comes up in my mind a lot because I feel that we are woefully neglecting all of the underground space available to us.

When I went to and returned from dropping off my primary computer so that it could be fixed I walked through some of the Maine Mall's massive, mostly empty, parking lots.  They're a waste of space.  Don't get me wrong, the Mall has such massive parking lots because at some times of year they're needed, but why do they exist purely to park cars in?

Above ground I would recommend too many changes.  Maybe have a park (with fences or some such so you don't risk falling out) or arrays of solar panels built over the parking lots, but it's below ground where I see the real potential.  Parking garages have demonstrated beyond all doubt that supporting cars above a mostly empty space is a solved problem.

How solved?  We could fit ten stories of shit under the parking lot without putting much effort into the design.  Mind you that would require digging a hole ten stories deep so I'm not really recommending that, but I'm just saying, the fact that there are cars on the ground does not in any way imply that there couldn't be stuff under the ground because we've got suporting the weight of cars over a majority empty space pretty well covered.

The Maine Mall is 1.2 million square feet.  It's mostly one story.  The lot is approximately (back of the envelope math) five million square feet.  If it were entirely one story then we could simply subtract and say that the parking lot is 3.8 million square feet.  At this point it gets tricky because I don't know if the figure for the mall is just the contiguous mall or if it also includes the out building.  In the first case the parking lot is somewhat smaller than that figure, in the second case it's somewhat bigger (because of the multistory stores.)

Regardless, over three million square feet that could be used for all sorts of things, but is wasted because we don't do enough shit underground.

You know who does do shit underground?  Disney World.  Disney Land taught Walt Disney that it would be really useful to have a massive staff accessible underground complex.  Mind you, the ground Disney World is built on didn't allow for underground complexes.  So he just built the underground complex and then raised the ground level to roof level so that most of the time you're walking about at Disney World you're actually walking on the roof of a one story building.

But why doesn't the Mall do stuff underground?  That parking lot is just begging to be used for more than just parking cars, and there are plenty of times of year when the excavation and construction could be done without fucking with customer parking, and the mall would end up with at least four times as much space as it has now.  And sure, maybe the Mall couldn't find that many people willing to pay their regular prices, but they could rent it out to anyone.  Or use it as non-comercial ventures to draw in potential customers.  Put a skate park there to draw in skaters, put a really cool playground there to draw in kids and their parents (do you know how much consumers pay on stuff for kids?  Kids are a gold mine.)


And that's how I think.

- - -

*I grew up in and around a glass greenhouse, so I tend to think of them as things of glass.  I think, though, that plastics have become favored.  Whatever it is, it needs to be strong.  It will get snowed on an while the snow will be cleared (otherwise it would block out the light), and presumably melted into water for the plants, the process cannot be counted on to be instantaneous.  Point being, those flimsy plastics are not going to be involved.  If it's plastic then it'll be hard core strong as all fuck plastic.


  1. A rule of thumb is that underground construction is 10-20× the cost of surface-level. And in the USA, even on the east coast, a mall can afford to buy lots of land for its parking lot rather than using less area but paying that premium.

    A metal mirror will reflect UV effectively. With a glass covering you lose a bit.

    If you fill the space between the double panes with air, then in the summer you get hot air in that space (which you can convect and use to heat water) and not as much of the reradiated infra-red goes inside the room. Also, you need much less engineering than for a structure that'll support vacuum.

    An advantage of big mirrors: you can auto-track the sun, since it's in a predictable position, and put the light exactly where you want it.

    I've seen semi-underground home designs with lightpipes.

  2. Given where you live, you'll lose way to much sunlight in the winter if you rely only on overhead panes. So what you do is build your greenhouse into the south side of a hill or build a berm around it leaving only the south side and roof exposed. Then you have overhead sunlight in the summer, and angled sunlight coming in from the south in the winter.